Amp claims that it is unfair to group Chomsky with "real" Holocaust deniers like David Irving. To be fair, the evidence seems mixed--but really, is this an issue where there should even be mixed signals? The well-worn quote that he thinks that to even debate the Holocaust is to deny one's humanity appears to be one he no longer holds, if we are to judge from this quote:
I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the holocaust. Nor would there be anti-Semitic implications, per se, in the claim that the holocaust (whether one believes it took place or not) is being exploited, viciously so, by apologists for Israeli repression and violence. I see no hint of anti-Semitic implications in Faurisson's work...
Paul Begala once said that George W. Bush didn't have an ounce of racial bigotry in him--but he sure seemed comfortable with those who did. Above all, it really doesn't matter if Chomsky himself denies the Holocaust, because he appears to be perfectly comfortable associating with, providing material support to, and providing intellectual succor to those who do. In fact, he seems more comfortable in those circles than he does with those academics who truly recognize and refuse to downplay the significance of the Shoah.
But the real thing here is to remember what Iran's goal is here. It isn't necessarily to debunk the Holocaust (though I'm sure they wouldn't mind that). The overriding goal is to justify their fanatical quest to obliterate Israel. And that's where Chomsky becomes useful. One can very easily imagine them passing this off as a "both sides agree" deal. They'll put up some David Irving type fellow to say that the Holocaust never happened and thus, Israel has no reason to exist. And then they'll bring up a Chomsky, who will say that yes, the Holocaust happened, but Israel still shouldn't have a right to exist. How fair! And they'll nod their heads and acknowledge the "scholarly controversy" (snort), but note that either way, Israel is an abomination to all mankind and should be annihilated. So I find it perfectly plausible that he'd show up for that project, given that he appears to have no problem with either Israel going bye-bye, or playing intellectual peek-a-boo with real deniers, I'm not sure where he'd lodge his objection ('cause we know it isn't in a moral opposition to supporting oppressive regimes).
There isn't much to say with regards to the British Israel boycott. I am mildly amused that Amp quotes Ilan Pappe to support the view that one can support the boycott without being anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, given that Professor Pappe, does, actually, believe that Israel should cease to exist as a Jewish state. Whoops. Given that Pappe does not buy into the "baseline" of what most people would consider being "pro-Israel" or "pro-Jew", I don't think he's a credible source as to whether the boycott is commensurate with either of those ideals. Pappe and Chomsky are each, in their own way, the Jewish equivalents of a Clarence Thomas or Ward Connerly. I don't really mean it as a slur, though I suspect that both of them would take it as such. Both take positions with regard to Jewish national identity and cultural survival which are wildly at odds with the community at large. Thomas and Connerly operate in a similar fashion with regards to the opinions of the Black community on race and racial discrimination issues. That doesn't mean that they don't have the right to express their opinions, or that they should be expelled from the Jewish/Black community, I advocate neither. But it does mean that if we, as progressives, are going to address anti-semitism in the same manner as we do racism, as a structural matter deeply ingrained in the fabric of global society, then we can't be side-tracked simply because a few reactionaries have decided to join forces with those who'd deny or minimize the presence/importance of these ills in the modern world.
Like with racism, our society is both pervasively and structurally anti-Semitic. 60 years after the Holocaust, one would think this wouldn't need to be established. But yet, there is almost no literature analyzing anti-Semitism as a structural phenomena, as opposed to a particularly long-running aberration or a mere "me too" example to go along with other forms of ethnic hatred. What it means to be "anti-Semitic" from a social or ideological sense is severely under-examined, meaning that anti-Semitism gets defined only as its most extreme manifestations, rabid hate and/or violence. To be fair, there are many such events to choose from. But this doesn't excuse the dearth of scholarship looking at anti-Semitism in more insidious forms. Why, for example, only the Jewish national state is seen as prima facia illegitimate, when no such claims are made of the French state, or the Russian state, or (God forbid) the Palestinian state could very easily be examined through such anti-Semitic constructs like "the Mark of Cain", by which Jews were forever consigned to live in miserable exile for their collective national sins. Progressive scholars jump all over this sort of thing when it comes to every other minority group--with Jews, such analysis is limited, obscure, and hard to find.
I understand the frustration of leftist scholars who believe they have legitimate (if not morally imperative) critiques of Israel who feel like even a whisper will expose them to reflexive attacks of "anti-Semitism." And maybe in some cases it is. More often, however, these complaints ring eerily of conservative scholars who complain of "reflexive" responses of sexism, racism, et al. Anti-semitism is going to be heard often with regards to anti-Israel critics because in the current global schema of anti-Semitism, Israel is the central point of revelation. In Affirmative Action debates, racism will be alleged because the central problem is racism. With regards to Israel, anti-Semitism is alleged because anti-Semitism is the central issue in the Israel/Palestine debate. Anti-Israel speakers know, on the deepest (perhaps sub-conscious) level, that this is the case, which is why they battle so ferociously to keep it out of the discussion. A truly critical examination of how anti-Israel policies are informed, motivated, supported, and legitimated by anti-Semitism would force the left to entirely re-evaluate the entire foundation upon which their critique rests--not to mention undermining the credibility of a whole generation of scholars whose academic currency rests entirely on being able to step outside such ancient oppressions and valiantly assail the oppressive cornerstones we build our life upon. If they themselves are indicted, who is safe? But ultimately, if the left isn't going to examine its own blindspot here, then the movement has no currency. It is a mirage, a facade of a post-modern uprising that is in actuality following very well trodden footsteps--calling for revolution on the backs of the Jews.
If you survived to the end of this post, congratulations! You might also want to read my article, "Jews in Space", published in the inaugural issue of The Lens.